Taylor Ends Hopkins’ Middleweight Title Reign

By Francis Walker
Updated: July 17, 2005

Jermain Taylor (left) won a 
split decision over Bernard Hopkins Saturday 

Jermain Taylor (left) won a split decision over Bernard Hopkins Saturday night.

NEW YORK — Jermain Taylor shocked the boxing world with a surprise 12-round split decision to capture the WBC/IBF middleweight championships from Bernard Hopkins. The loss was Hopkins’ first since losing to Roy Jones, Jr. in May 1993 (12 years ago). Taylor’s victory also ends Hopkins’ middleweight title streak of 20 defenses.

The two judges at ringside scored the bout 115-113 (twice) for Taylor and 116-113 for Hopkins, who will exercise is immediate rematch clause. There is already talk of a Hopkins-Taylor II occurring in the Fall.

“From the fifth or sixth round on, I dominated the fight,” a relaxed Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs)said afterward. “I had him hurt twice. The only thing I didn’t do was knock him out.”

Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) admitted that he got “a little winded, but denied that Bernard, “never hurt me.”

Taylor’s biggest asset coming into the bout was his sharp left jab. The 26-year-old, Taylor, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, worked his jabs, applying his youth and physical strength against Hopkins, a 40-year-old, Philadelphia native. It was a tactical battle between the youth of a hungry challenger against the legacy of a relentless champion. There were times in the early rounds when Taylor appeared to beat Hopkins to the punch and was not afraid to exchange punches with “The Executioner.”

During the fifth round, Taylor suffered a hairline cut as a result of an accidental headbutt. Hopkins performed well in that round and slowly began to counterpunch Taylor more effectively. Although Taylor who initiated most of the action, it was Hopkins who was aggressive with his counterpunching.

Hopkins had Taylor hurt in rounds nine, ten and eleven and twelve. Taylor appeared to tire as the bout reached the later rounds, but was not afraid to exchange punches with the more experienced fighter.

Hopkins, on two of the three judge’s scorecard won the twelfth round. Had Judge Duane Ford award the final round to Hopkins he would have retained his championship on a majority draw.

That did not happen and Taylor remains undefeated with Hopkins’ WBC/IBF middleweight championship belts. A rematch is in order, especially in such a tightly-scored fight.

The much younger inexperienced Taylor ended the longest title reign of all active champions by a controversial decision. Taylor had won all of his 85 rounds in his professional career prior to edging Hopkins. Taylor’s championship reign could be very short, as HBO is holding an October 1 date for an immediate rematch.

Hopkins’ promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, Taylor’s promoter, Lou DiBella, and the fighters themselves are eager to exercise an immediate rematch clause in the contract.

DiBella Beats Hopkins – Again

Hopkins vs. Taylor was a very personal fight for Taylor’s current promoter Lou DiBella, who managed/advised Hopkins several years ago. Hopkins fought under DiBella Entertainment, who both negotiated as a team to involve Hopkins in Don King’s world middleweight championship tournament series in 2001. Hopkins ended up unifying the world middleweight championships, but shortly thereafter, Hopkins and DiBella began to feud.

Hopkins sued DiBella for libel accusing his ex-promoter to lying, bribery, and extortion throughout their business relationship. DiBella defeated Hopkins in a civil suit winning $610,000 in damages in 2003. DiBella struggled to reconstruct the positive image he had when he was Senior Vice-President of HBO Sports Programming for more than a decade before creating DiBella Entertainment.

During his relationship highlighted by an ugly split with Hopkins, DiBella’s cast of fighters that included well-accomplished amateur boxers from the 2000 U.S. Olympics began to fizzle. Lopsided losses, surprise knockout defeats, and legal troubles corrupted many of DiBella’s once promising prospects that included Ricardo Williams and Jose Navarro.

DiBella struggled, lost money, and became frustrated with other matchmakers and promoters trying to knock-off his fighters. The one fighter who came through for DiBella by training hard, polishing their boxing skills, and taking advantage of every opportunity given was Taylor.

DiBella was quoted following Taylor’s historic victory for saying: “I feel an ugly chapter of my life is over. I feel freed. I beat him in court, Jermain beat him in the ring.”

History for Hopkins

The all-time record for the longest title reign in boxing history is held by heavyweight champion, Joe Louis -11 years, 254 days. Hopkins’ middleweight title reign of 10 years, 82 days is the fourth longest reign in boxing history. Joe Louis’ 25 consecutive defenses is boxing’s all-time record. Hopkins’ 20 consecutive defenses is fourth on the all-time list overall.

Also, Hopkins’ 20 consecutive title defenses is the all-time record for most successful defenses for a middleweight champion. The late Carlos Monzon is second with 16 title defenses. Marvelous Marvin Hagler is third with 12.